Probably no wine is released to more fanfare than Beaujolais Nouveau. This fruity, gluggable wine made from the red Gamay grape is famous for being the first variety released after every year’s harvest in France’s Beaujolais region. While most wines, even fresh whites and rosés, are released sometime during the year after they’re harvested, and red wines sometimes even years after that, Beaujolais Nouveau is released specifically on the third Thursday of November at exactly 12:01 a.m. to much carousing, festivities, and, of course, drinking.
That hard-and-fast release date isn’t the only thing that makes Beaujolais Nouveau unique. Despite how quickly it’s rushed out to restaurants and wine shops all over the world for its festive release, and the fact that it’s fairly inexpensive, the wine is made through the kind of slow, traditional process that’s usually reserved for pricier styles. For one, the Gamay grapes are harvested by hand. This is because Beaujolais Nouveau is made through a unique fermentation method called carbonic maceration, which calls for whole grape clusters rather than individual berries (machine harvesting tends to break up these bunches).
The clusters are sealed in a fermentation tank, and rather than yeast going to work on the crushed fruit, fermentation happens inside each individual grape. This causes the berries to eventually burst, and the resulting wine has a bright, juicy flavor that serious wine professionals describe as “tutti-frutti” with a straight face. Because it’s made and released so quickly, Beaujolais Nouveau is not a wine to swirl and sniff while you stroke your chin and look serious. It’s not going to blow you away with complexity, and it’s definitely not a wine to age. (If someone gives you Beaujolais Nouveau that’s more than a few months old, they might not like you very much. Use it to make sangria, and when that person’s birthday rolls around, give them a scented candle.)
While wine snobs tend to look down their noses at the whole Beaujolais Nouveau hullabaloo, its harvest-centric festivities are a good reminder that wine, as much as we use outlandish words to describe its aromas, is made from fruit, and that it’s meant to be fun. So raise a glass of this fresh, fruity wine to another year’s harvest. Just don’t let it sit in your wine fridge too long.
Need to Know
There are all kinds of celebrations and festivals for Beaujolais Nouveau in the Beaujolais region. Les Sarmentelles is one of the biggest, a several-day-long celebration that takes place in the historic capital of the Beaujolais region, Beaujeu. You’ll need to buy tickets to take part in the festivities, so plan ahead before you go.
Where to Try It
Les SarmentellesBeaujeu, 69430, France
The festival includes plenty to drink, plus parties and a giant wine fountain.